Comics

Attack of the Apps: Solider Zero #5

James Orbesen
Killer App: The sheer rollicking joy of following a new character using a smartphone to hack physical reality does much to elevate the launch issue of the new writing team.

With a bold new era beginning in Stan Lee's Soldier Zero, and a new creative team taking the helm, what is left to be said? Except perhaps a hope for greatness once demonstrated.


Soldier Zero #5

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Length: 22 pages
Writers: Dan Abnet & Andy Lanning
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2011-05
Amazon

Previously, I examined the first issue of Solider Zero by Paul Cornell and found the experience to be pleasantly surprising. Strong character work and evocative dialogue overrode an otherwise common pitch and serviceable plot. However, Cornell’s stint at the head of the franchise has come to an end.

Enter DnA. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been tapped to take over the title for the foreseeable future. The writing duo has a prestigious pedigree when it comes to helming cosmic concepts. Previous suitably cosmic efforts include a prolonged stint on the post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes. However, the duo really cut their teeth reinventing and revitalizing Marvel’s cast of spaceborne characters in the wake of 2005’s Annihilation. With all of this experience under their belt, it would seem to be a no brainer that they would be a natural fit for any cosmic endeavor.

Sadly, Solider Zero #5 doesn’t live up to DnA’s reputation. This issue examines the fallout from Cornell’s first arc that saw a living alien warsuit crash to Earth and bond with the paraplegic Stewart Trautmann and the resulting clash with hostile forces. A new villain also comes to the fore with a ridiculous gag centered on smart phone applications.

Apparently, Application Nine utilizes an all powerful mobile device that grants him whatever power he currently needs to suit the plot. Said villain is currently on a rampage throughout a hospital trying to track down the titular protagonist and abscond with his suit for an unknown power. This also allows the reader to check in with various characters and gauge their reactions to the big fireworks from the past several issues.

Focusing on a character who demonstrates the novelty of smart phone apps struck me as somewhat shortsighted, especially for a book that’s still in its infancy. Timeliness in comics is always a double edged sword. In the moment, it provides a highly relevant storytelling device that readers can easily relate to. Furthermore, writers who use timely narrative devices can tap into the cultural zeitgeist by exploring topical issues and contemporary events.

This approach often produces fresh and lively comics. However, try reading those same comics years later. Feels a bit dated, right? It’s akin to reading old Avengers stories and seeing Jimmy Carter, his peanut farm drawl in full glory, calling up the team in an emergency. Books that rely on topical issues often become products of their time and remain glued in a particular era.

Serialized storytelling often cannot afford the luxury of being timely; especially the type that only releases a new edition once a month. Sure, mobile applications may be all the rage right now, but who knows what the field will look like in a few years. Basing a villain on such a gimmick screams potential retcons and revisions down the road. BOOM! Studio’s efforts to craft a shared superhero universe of their own depend on embracing a long form centric approach. If this project is to have any chance of succeeding alongside the Big Two then it needs to elevate itself above gimmickry. I’ve spoken before about how timelessness is a key fundamental in comic books because of its serialized nature. Comics can’t cash in on the short term because they’ll hurt their prospects in the long run. The medium, by and large, always needs to look ahead to the next issue because with comics as a whole their always is another issue on the horizon.

It may sound like I’m making a big deal out of DnA’s decision to focus on an app wielding villain but I had very high expectations for the pair. I was expecting to read something on par with their usual level of creativity and inventiveness. Not only is Application Nine a milquetoast but the issue has loads of clunky exposition, despite an occasional flare of emotionally satisfying dialogue, and relies on the most overused form of plot dump in all of comics, the news cast. I understand this issue was billed as new reader friendly, but it could be accomplished in far better ways.

Abnett and Lanning are better than that.

Unfortunately, their first foray into the world of Solider Zero caters too much to the moment. An issue like this should be full of world building to hook new readers and playing up the title’s overarching themes and tone. None of that is present in this installment.

5

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image